Committed to Christ – Week 4
Churches with a high level of vitality are rare. In the typical congregation, it seems that only a small portion of the congregation is actively engaged and striving to become faithful disciples of Jesus Christ; in contrast, the vast majority of the typical congregation seems to be more passive or lukewarm in their response.
Committed to Christ invites every household in the congregation to take at least one step in six different areas, beginning with a growing commitment to Jesus Christ. Through these six invitations, Committed to Christ lays the foundation for the vitality of your church to surge forward as commitments are made and kept. Imagine the people of your congregation becoming so engaged in the journey that they insist, like some who have used the program, on repeating Committed to Christ year after year, as they continue to step up and grow toward becoming deeply devoted disciples.
Will giving increase?
You might be wondering, “Will the strategies in Committed to Christ increase our congregation’s per capita giving?” Great question. While it’s true that financial giving is not the only goal of Committed to Christ, an increase in giving should certainly be one result.
In the landmark book Money Matters: Personal Giving in American Churches, Dean R. Hoge and his co-authors report that churches fall into three general categories regarding how they ask parishioners to contribute money. The first category is called an offerings church. These churches do not hold an annual financial stewardship campaign. The parishioners are simply invited to respond to the offering plate each week. In these churches, parishioners on average give 1.5% of their income to the church.
A second category is called a pledging church. In these churches, the leadership prepares an annual budget. Parishioners are then asked to give financial resources to support the budget. The message is: Your church needs money to accomplish the ministries described in our budget. Please give generously so that these ministries can be accomplished. In pledging churches, parishioners on average give 2.9% of their income to their church—about twice as much as in churches that do not ask their parishioners to pledge.
Herb Miller, author of New Consecration Sunday, calls the third category a percentage- giving church. In these churches, instead of preparing an annual budget first and asking parishioners to support it, the church first conducts an annual stewardship campaign that asks parishioners: What percentage of your income do you feel God is calling you to give? Parishioners decide the percentage, translate it into a dollar amount, and write the dollar amount on a commitment card. The church then uses the total of these commitment cards, subtracting anticipated shortfall and adding anticipated loose-plate offerings, in preparing its budget. Herb Miller says that in these churches, parishioners are not asked to “pay the bills” or “support the budget”; rather, they are asked to grow spiritually, giving a percentage of their income to the work of the Lord through their congregation. In these percentage- giving churches, parishioners on average give 4.6% of their income to their church—about three times more per year than in churches that only rely on passing the offering plate.11
Committed to Christ invites congregations to be percentage-giving churches, not focusing on the church’s need to meet a budget but rather on each individual’s need to respond generously to the saving grace of Jesus Christ.
Best of all, they went beyond our highest hopes, for their first action was to dedicate themselves to the Lord . . .for whatever directions God might give them. 2 Corinthians 8:5 (New Living Translation)
Now that you’ve been introduced to Committed to Christ, you may be wondering why your church will want to get involved. Here are some reasons to consider, based on the experience of churches that have used the program.
- It can be a powerful invitation for every person in our congregation to enter into, or re-engage, in a journey toward becoming a deeply devoted disciple of Jesus Christ.
- It carries the potential to transform every household and the church itself.
- The “generous life” engendered by the program involves having the people of our congregation live and serve in the saving grace of the Lord, not as a obligation but as a joyous response. This balanced and generous life, arising out of a commitment to Jesus Christ, flows through every facet of daily living.
“You have been treated generously, so live generously.” Matthew 10:8 (The Message).
The program’s holistic, six-step invitation is closer to the broad range of the Lord’s high expectations for those who seek to follow faithfully. These six primary commitments are worthy of giving one’s life.
How is it different?
Committed to Christ is not your typical annual stewardship campaign, for several reasons:
- The congregation is invited to journey together in a more holistic set of commitments than most annual stewardship campaigns, which focus almost solely on financial giving.
- The program begins by inviting your congregation to make or affirm their personal commitment to Jesus Christ.
- In response to that primary commitment to Jesus Christ, invitations are offered to take one or more steps in six additional areas of discipleship.
- Equal emphasis is placed on each area of commitment. The use of separate commitment cards (instead of a single combined card) helps to communicate the message that a range of commitments is being sought. In many traditions, the six steps in Committed to Christ reinforce the church’s basic expectations of all who seek to be faithful disciples: prayers, Bible reading, worship, service, gifts, and witness.
- While the typical commitment card for other programs may have a box to check about prayer, attendance, and service, the “pledge card” goes on to ask the congregation to indicate if financial support will be weekly, monthly, quarterly, or annually in cash, by bank draft, or in final estate planning. In this way the typical annual stewardship program communicates that the “bottom line” is a financial commitment. This sends the wrong message.
- In contrast to the typical program, Committed to Christ begins with an invitation to follow Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. It then invites the congregation to respond in six areas of discipleship to the saving grace of God and thus begin a journey together toward becoming deeply devoted disciples of the Lord.
Don’t just do the minimum that will get you by. Do your best. Work from the heart for your real Master, for God. . . .Keep in mind always that the ultimate Master you’re serving is Christ. Colossians 3:22-23. Bible Translation: (The Message).
Understanding the Program
October 14, 2012
The program is introduced then carried out over a six-week period. During the introductory sermon and worship, the people of our congregation will be invited to join together on a journey that begins, first and foremost, with a deeper commitment to Christ.
Then, in response to the saving grace of Jesus Christ, each household is invited to join a journey toward faithful discipleship in six core areas that are given equal emphasis, focusing on one per week:
- Bible reading
- Financial giving
During this six-week period, the congregation will build and strengthen its commitment to Christ through worship, small groups, and other activities. With each step, people will be asked to think seriously about and set goals for that particular aspect of discipleship. The six steps begin with interior activities and move outward.
“Very truly, I tell you, anyone who hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life, and does not come under judgement, but has passed from death to life.” John 5:24 (NRSV).
- The program is holistic, with each of the six steps anchored in the context of an initial commitment to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
- The six invitational steps are perceived by the congregation to reflect what the Lord expects of those who seek to be faithful followers. These commitments have historically framed the church’s primary expectations and are worthy of giving one’s life to.
- The program places equal emphasis on each of the six steps, clearly communicating that this is not simply “about money.”
- The steps are realistic and achievable for each participant. Persons who are new to the faith will find introductory, first-step invitations that are engaging and challenging. The saints, who have attended worship and Sunday school for their entire lives, will find advanced steps that invite them to grow not just incrementally but in the quality of their relationship with God and in response to the Lord’s expectations of those who seek to be deeply devoted disciples.
- By the very structure and layout of the program, the congregation understands that they are being invited on a journey with their fellow believers, step by step. Committed to Christ is not a simple six-week emphasis that is “over when it’s over.” Rather, the program presents a journey worthy of a lifetime. It is an invitation to begin intentionally, step by step, month by month, year by year, a journey toward holiness, toward sanctification, toward winning the only race worth winning.
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. From now on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” 2 Timothy 4: 7 – 8 (NRSV).
Stew' ârd˙ship, n.
- The careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care. (Webster’s Dictionary)
- All that we do with all that we have once we say we believe. (The Episcopal Church)
We count on financial pledges to help us continue Christ’s work. Financial gifts help us serve those in need, provide programs and services to our faith community, and maintain our facilities. Our whole life is a partnership with God. We cannot “give” anything to God; but we can “fulfill” God by using our Gifts wisely and sharing with others. Each of us can live as God’s steward.
“From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required.” Luke 12:48
For more information, please contact the church office. Phone: (404) 284-1211 E-mail the church office
Giving Time and Talents
Members of our parish give of their time and talents in numerous ways – serving as ushers and greeters for worship, Sunday School teachers, choir members, volunteers on mission projects, altar guild, the list goes on and on.
To learn more about ways to give of your time and talents, please call the church office at (404) 284-1211 and we will gladly connect you with someone to assist you with information on your area of interest.